Everyone loves that new car smell, but not all new cars are created equal. Some product launches are simply more interesting, and more important, than others. As Mercedes-Benz’s flagship and a car known for being a harbinger of new tech, the S-Class is typically more equal than others.
The differences are apparent from the moment you see the 2014 S-Class. Like the smaller E-Class, it seems to have become refined and more extroverted at the same time. The previous model’s bulbous curves are gone, but the new car isn’t a throwback to the boxy W140 S-Class of the 1990s, either.
The new styling is backed by substantial improvements. Every light on the car is an LED and, thanks to an aluminum-steel hybrid chassis, the 2014 S-Class is about 300 pounds lighter than last year’s model, despite being slightly longer.
The new skin also conceals a large battery of safety tech. An updated version of Mercedes’ Pre-Safe collision avoidance system can autonomously brake the S-Class to a full stop from 50 kph (31 mph), and apply the hazard lights to warn following drivers of a possible rear-end collision.
Once applied, the S-Class can hold its brakes on, to help prevent whiplash and, somewhat creepily, use its seatbelts to pull the driver and front passenger away from the direction of impact.
Mercedes’ long-rumored seatbelt airbags also debut on the 2014 S-Class, along with a rear cushionbag for models with reclining seats.
Of course, S-Class owners will spend most of their time driving, not crashing (hopefully), and Mercedes has plenty of tech for that, too.
Up front on the dashboard are two 12.3-inch TFT displays, one directly in front of the driver (serving as a gauge cluster), the other on the center stack. Helping driver and front passenger make sense of all the infotainment possibilities contained within is a touch-sensitive telephone keypad with memory that centralizes important functions.
Mercedes’ Linguatronic voice command system returns, now with the ability to read text messages and e-mail, and the navigation system now features Google Maps.
For sound, Mercedes installed a Burmeister 3D system with the Frontbass resonator from the SL Roadster.
Some of the other features seem like they came out of a Brookstone catalog. An “Air Balance Package” spritzes fragrance into the cabin, there are massaging seats with ventilation, heated door panels and armrests are also available so you never have to touch a cold or even cool surface.
An optional First Class rear seating arrangement includes a full center console with heated and cooled cupholders.
With so many options available, it’s surprising that Mercedes chose to launch the 2014 S-Class with only one engine. Initially, it will only be available as an S550, with a 4.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 producing 455 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.
The engine is mated to either an eight-speed automatic transmission, and of course the S-Class is available with either rear-wheel drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Despite being weighed down with so many TFT displays and perfume spritzers, the 2014 S-Class will do 0 to 60 mph in a brisk 4.8 seconds, and reach an electronically-limited top speed of 130 mph.
We listed those numbers last for a reason.
With so much gadgetry on board, it’s easy to forget that the 2014 S-Class is a car and not a mobile lounge. Previous S-Classes have introduced technologies, such as airbags and traction control, that are now industry standards. We’ll have to wait and see if Mercedes has gone too far with this one.
The 2014 S550 will arrive in U.S. dealerships in September, with other models to follow. Prices are TBA, but if you have to ask….
What do you think of Mercedes’ refitted flagship? Tell us in the comments.